Tina Fey, you’re still welcome in my barrio

Posted: October 1st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

A couple of days ago comedic actress Tina Fey was approached by a comedian with a show on Funny or Die called Billy on the Street, who challenged her to name 20 Latino performers in one minute. The outcome, as you might imagine, was a little shameful.

What you might not imagine, though, is that I don’t think Fey deserves any of that shame.

Look, I’m Latino of Mexican-American heritage. I grew up in a home that was literally less than a mile from the United States border with Mexico and the fourth largest city in that country. My community was — and continues to be — around 80 percent Latino, and Spanglish is practically the official language. In a word, it’s Latino as hell.

And I’m telling you now, I don’t think I could name 20 Latino performers in a minute, either.

Do I have to turn in my Mexi-card? Am I somehow less Latino because of it? Will some white folks stop acting surprised when I speak accent-less English? I doubt it. So why do we expect an Anglo lady from New York to pull it off? Why do we take what was a shaky comedic premise to begin with and use it to shame someone? Por favor.

Besides the unfairness of the “game” trotted out by host Billy Eichner, the whole thing distracts from some real issues, namely the lack of Latino performers getting a shot at top-tier roles, and the relegation of the performers we do have to restrictive, stereotypical background characters. It’s gotten better, but it’s still not very good. And yet, all anyone can talk about is how Tina Fey “failed.” Which is both inaccurate in the broader Internet sense and besides the point. Here are some sample headlines to chew on:

Tina Fey Fails Miserably on Billy on the Street, Can’t Name 20 Latino Performers (Us Magazine)

Tina Fey Finally Fails at Something on Billy on the Street (E Online)

Tina Fey Gracefully Fails at Game “LaTina Fey” (USA Today)

#Epic Fail: Watch Tina Fey Struggle Naming 20 Latino Actors (Vibe)

And so on. I should point out that I’m not trying to defend Tina Fey (it would have been nice if a person who’s been successful in the entertainment industry had more Latino names at her fingertips). But personally, I don’t think she’s done anything that needs to be defended against. I think the media outlets piling on her, without taking the time to discuss the real underlying issues facing people of color in the entertainment industry, have more to answer for.

John Cusack should’ve been the Generation X Gene Wilder: An argument

Posted: December 13th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

Recently, I did something that most people of a certain age find themselves doing — having an online discussion about John Cusack.

Nowadays, I’m ambivalent about Cusack, but back in the 80s I LOVED that guy. He was in a lot of coming-of-age movies that caught me at just the right time, and it was when he was still funny.

No, really.

And I don’t mean Hot Tub Time Machine funny, I mean really funny. Part of this was because he was the go-to guy for “Savage” Steve Holland, who made a name for himself with some supremely silly movies about teens who smoked and drank and lived in a sort of cartoon world where nothing was too serious and no one got hurt. If there was a scale, John Hughes would be on one end, and Holland would be on the other.

The discussion started with a picture I posted from Better Off Dead. If you haven’t seen it before, stop reading this right now and go get it. It’s a classic — no idea is too crazy, there is just one ridiculously great line after another, and it somehow all comes together into a tight little story with characters you genuinely care about. It is — hand to God — the funniest movie about teen suicide you’ll ever watch.

Cusack, unfortunately, didn’t feel the same way. He reportedly left the theater 20 minutes into a premier screening and then reamed  Holland out for “using him” and “making a fool out of him.” Cusack would work with him again a year later in 1986’s One Crazy Summer, solely due to contractual obligations; after that, the two were kaput.

Which is a shame. Because, in my mind at least, it looked for a while as if Steve Holland was going to be our generation’s Mel Brooks and Cusack our Gene Wilder. He played an immensely likable and identifiable teenager, which isn’t easy. And he was doing it when theaters were overflowing with likeable, identifiable teens. To stand out must have meant he was doing something right. When Cusack suddenly decided he was a self-important, capital-A Actor, he shoved a natural talent for comedy to the back of his cupboard until it crumbled into a bitter, barely recognizable pile of dust.

Frankly, I think he screwed it all up. At the time, Cusack had a ton of potential (it could argued he still does). But starting with his starring role in 1989’s Say Anything, Cusack started a spiral that circles around mediocre rom-coms (often without the com) and pseudo-thinky films that, for all the effort, just manage to be boring. It’s too bad, because again it’s about potential. Gene Wilder is mostly known for playing absurdist roles with plenty of heart, and Cusack had a talent for that in spades. With some maturity and good roles, he could have been in the same pool as John Candy or (dare I say it? I dare!) Bill Murray. Instead, enjoy a viewing of … shit, I don’t know, Serendipity?

Of course, Cusack has made some good movies — the fantastic Being John Malkovich and the slow burn of High Fidelity come to mind — but they’re not my favorites. These are my favorites:

Better Off Dead

I could say more about this movie than I already have, but I’ll just let you watch this instead.

The Sure Thing

I don’t know if people just forget about this one, but it’s a great road movie about teens taking their first real steps into adulthood. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s smart, and at its core it’s about love and sex (if you’re into that sorta thing). Here’s some cinematic shorthand; it’s directed by Rob Reiner. If you have a love for When Harry Met Sally, watch the movie where he first explored most of its themes.

The Grifters

There is absolutely nothing funny about The Grifters and that’s completely OK. (I never said I wanted Cusack to do nothing BUT comedy). Like the hard-boiled noir it’s based on, this film is a punch in the gut; once you realize that fist has a knife in it, it’s too late and all you can do is sit there, stunned.

For what it’s worth, I’m glad John Cusack is still around. I just wish the guy who shows up now looked more like the kid I saw all those years ago.

I’m not mad … I’m just disappointed (OK, I’m a little mad, too)

Posted: September 7th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 4 Comments »


You’ve probably noticed that this blog has gone nearly silent over time.

I was telling myself it was because of things in my personal life that had to take precedent. I told myself it was because my freelancer’s budget didn’t allow for regular trips to the comic shop. I beat myself up, berating myself for what I perceived as a natural tendency toward laziness. And all of these things are true, to one degree or another.

But, I recently realized, a lot of it is because I just find it hard to get excited about comics lately.

To be specific, I find it hard to care about new comics; even more specifically, superhero comics from the Big Two. A constant reliance on Big Event leading into the Next Big Event has worn down my enthusiasm for both publishers. The tone-deaf missteps from DC (most recently Dan DiDio’s fiat against characters being married, the sudden dismissal of the Batwoman creative team, and the Harley Quinn-in-a-bathtub/suicide drawing contest) has pretty much crushed it. And, as a confessed DC guy, this kills me.

I know there are good comics being put out by both companies, but frankly, it’s hard for me to give a shit. I’m at a point where I’d rather spend the time, energy and money on finding titles I like from smaller publishers and independent creators (though my growing distaste for DC and Marvel has unfairly bled out to new comics in general). Finding good comics from other publishers is something I’d be doing anyway, but now I’m COMMITTED to doing it. This is comic reading as spite as much as fandom. And that kills me, too.

I’ve been planning on getting serious about blogging on a regular basis again, and that’s still going to happen. I’ve been wanting to expand the focus a bit, so expect my rambling to start encompassing movies, books, TV and whatever else catches my flitting attention.  And I’ll still be reading comics, mostly revisiting back issues and original graphic novels. But — fair warning — don’t expect reviews or much commentary on new books coming from DC or Marvel.

I just don’t have the heart anymore.

Ugh, indeed

Posted: April 24th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

I really hadn’t planned on getting into the controversy surrounding the imminent releases of DC’s Before Watchmen series and Marvel’s Avengers movie — David Brothers, after all, had said everything that needed to said, with an eloquence and passion that spoke volumes without needing more noise muddying the signal.

But on Facebook today I linked to an article on The Beat (which also touched on the firing of Chris Roberson after he was publicly critical of DC, where he was working on Fairest), and in writing a follow-up comment it turned out I did have something to say, after all. I’m reprinting it here to share with you, and to get it off my chest. It’s far from a complete statement on the situation, but I’m putting it here as originally written ( you’ll have to forgive the “quote” format); we can continue the discussion in the comments if it comes to that.

One of the things that bothers me most is the way DC, Marvel and the fanboys go out of their way to say, “Well, shitty contracts are part of the business – they’ll know better next time.” This is not the way publishers should be treating their creators. Or, if you want to put it into business terms, this is not the way companies should be treating their cash cows. Alienating your creators, and some of your customer base, is bad business.

But just on the simple face of it, the situation these creators have found themselves in is wrong. Sure, DC and Marvel are in the legal right, but they are morally wrong and, dammit, that is important. The publishers are under no legal obligation to do more than they are now — but simply because they managed to hand the dirty end of the stick to their former employees doesn’t mean it’s a situation they have to take advantage of in perpetuity. Contracts are renegotiated all the time; the fact neither DC or Marvel care to is evidence that turning a buck on the backs of others is more important to them than doing right by the people who brought them success in the first place.

I think what the people at Marvel and DC are missing is that much of the anger directed at them isn’t really because of the way the creators were treated originally. I don’t think most of the people in charge now were even around back then. The anger is due to the way the creators continue to be willfully mistreated today. In the Bad Old Days, shitty contracts and screwing over the talent was commonplace. But that doesn’t mean it’s the way the publishers should be conducting their business — and their simple interactions with creators — today. Not by a long shot.